However, Santiago Solari achieved the biggest win of his tenure on a dramatic afternoon at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Los Blancos took the lead early on through Casemiro, before Antoine Griezmann restored parity.
Real Madrid secured the win courtesy of goals from Sergio Ramos and Gareth Bale, however, closing the gap on Barcelona at the La Liga summit in the process.
Real have been on a good run of late.
Prior to the game, they were unbeaten in six games – while Atletico had lost just one of their last 20.
And this felt significant. This felt like, at long last, they are en route to enjoying life without Ronaldo.
The 34-year-old moved to Juventus in the summer for £105million.
And, initially, they struggled. Julen Lopetegui was unable to arrest the slump and ultimately paid the price, being sacked in October.
Then Solari, too, had teething problems.
However, Real’s attack finally has its vest and adventure back.
Vinicius Junior was electric and lived up to the billing. It seems the 18-year-old has some future ahead of him.
Karim Benzema was quiet but not anonymous. He, too, has looked sharper than at any point over the last few years in the last few weeks.
And then Bale.
The Wales international has struggled for form this season and, as a result, links to Manchester United and Chelsea have arisen once again.
But today could be the turning point in his season and, indeed, his Real Madrid career.
Make no mistake about it, Solari’s side have lost some of their fear factor.
That was always going to be the case when Ronaldo jumped ship – whether they had signed a marquee replacement or not.
But they are clawing some of it back. Finally.